Diplomatic briefs

07-07-2013 09:47 PM

Mary Fikry - Antoun Milad

* Arab middle class
* Italian support for small producers
* Training Yemen customs staff
* Hunger costs Egypt billions of Pounds
* Good bye, Ambassador Kärre
* Cotton and its museum
* Fête de la Musique

Arab middle class
Tapping into a yet unexplored area, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) held a meeting on “Economics of middle class in the Arab region,” on 28 and 29 June. The meeting opened with a statement by ESCWA Senior Economist and Director of the Economic Development and Globalisation Division, Abdallah Dardari.
Participants in the meeting are international experts from academia and other research institutions as well as representatives of government officials from different relevant ministries in ESCWA member countries. They discussed the economic perspective of the middle class; macroeconomic and labour market policies and the middle class; political economy of the middle class; and political sociology of the middle class.
ESCWA is one of the five UN regional commissions. It provides a framework for the formulation and harmonisation of sectoral policies for member countries; a platform for congress and coordination; a home for expertise and knowledge, and an information observatory. ESCWA aims at supporting economic and social cooperation between the region’s countries and promoting development in order to achieve regional integration. The 17 ESCWA member countries are: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The Sudan, The Syrian Arab Republic, The United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Italian support for small producers
The results of a project to support small-scale producers and farmers, which aims to bolsterItalian support.jpg the rights of the most marginalised groups and especially women, were recently presented in Cairo. The project is a collaboration between the Italian NGO Cooperation for the Development of Emerging Countries (COSPE) and the Ayadi Masriya foundation, an Egyptian non-profit organisation gathering under its umbrella about 4,000 producers and producers associations as well as micro-enterprises in the agriculture and crafts sector.
Funded by an Italian international cooperation debt swap worth 750,000 dollars over a three-year period, the Small-Scale Producers Network for Socio-Economic Rights Recognition project was, as noted by head of the Italian Cooperation in Cairo, Marco Platzer, focused on two key sectors for socioeconomic development at the local level: crafts and agrofood production. The achievements include the creation of courses to improve product quality, marketing and design; the granting of microcredit for the purchase of sewing and cutting machines and frames for rug-making; and the holding of shows for the promotion and sale of the products, including for export to such countries as Italy and the US.
Training Yemen customs staff
Training Yemen.jpegThrough coordination with the Government of Egypt and the Egyptian Customs Authority (ECA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security##s Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Transportation Security Administration conducted an International Air Cargo Interdiction Training course for members of the Yemeni Customs Authority last June.
During the course, which was conducted in Cairo, instructors demonstrated a variety of air cargo inspection techniques and methodologies and discussed with participants the knowledge and skills necessary to carry out effective inspection and detection, cargo and passenger processing, and eventual prosecution of illegal contraband and its traffickers in an international airport environment.
Hunger costs Egypt billions of Pounds
The Cost of Hunger in Africa: The Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition inHunger costs Egypt.jpg Egypt report measures the losses to the Egyptian economy caused by child undernutrition, particularly the effects of stunting or chronic malnutrition.  The study was undertaken in Egypt by the Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the African Union Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
Stunting (low-height-for-age) results when children miss out on critical nutrients including proteins, vitamins and minerals, while in the womb or in the first five years of life. People affected by stunting are more likely in later life to be sickly, to perform poorly at school, repeat classes or drop out altogether, to be less productive at work and to die early. 
The report shows that the country loses significant sums of money each year as a result of child undernutrition through increased healthcare costs, additional burdens to the education system and lower productivity. 
According to the study, which used data from 2009 as the most recent complete set of records required to develop the study, 40 percent of adults in Egypt are stunted. This represents more than 20 million people of working age who are not able to achieve their potential, as a consequence of child undernutrition. In rural Egypt, where most people are engaged in manual activities, it is estimated that in 2009 alone, some 10.7 billion EGP of economic productivity was lost due to lower physical capacity by those who were stunted as children. 
Illnesses linked to child undernutrition were also estimated to result in health costs equivalent to 1.2 billion EGP. Today, there are more stunted children in Egypt than 10 years ago, with data from Egypt’s Demographic Health Survey highlighting an upward trend in stunting between 2005 and 2008, reaching 28.9 percent amongst children under the age of five.
These results are part of a 12-country study in Africa highlighting that undernutrition is not just a health issue, but an economic one as well.
The findings strongly suggest that in order for Egypt to achieve sustainable human and economic growth, special attention must be given to the early stages of life, as the foundation of human capital. Without measures to combat and eliminate undernutrition, the cost to Egypt at current rates could increase by about 32 percent by 2025.
Good bye, Ambassador Kärre 
Good bye Ambassador.jpegThe Swedish embassy in Cairo held an event last June to mark the National Day of Sweden. It was also an occasion in which the Swedish ambassador Malin Kärre wished her guests goodbye at the end of five years in Egypt. Attending the event were diplomats and public figures in Egypt, as well as members of the Swedish community in Egypt.
Ms Kärre thanked her guests, and described her time in Cairo as “full of experiences and events I could never have imagined. What took us Swedes centuries to achieve, Egypt is trying to achieve at a turbo speed.
“The relations between Sweden and Egypt also date centuries back, in spite of the geographical distance between us. Not only do we know that trade took place a thousand years ago, it is specifically established that the Swedish king “Magnus Eriksson” sold falcons for hunting purposes to the then Sultan of Cairo in 1345.
“Swedish scientists such as the botanist and freedom of expression activist Peter Forsskål, were in Egypt in the middle of the 18th century. And the first modern business deal we can trace, in fact a company present here today, goes back more than 120 years.
“Today, only Egyptians themselves can ultimately take responsibility for the destiny of your great nation. Real democracy is not only about rights but also about responsibilities. And respect for Human Rights is about the state’s responsibility to protect each one of its citizens and not to protect itself from its citizens. Real democracy can only be achieved and sustained through a strong and vibrant civil society.”
Cotton and its museum
A book entitled The Cotton Museum of Cairo on cotton and the museum devoted to it, wasCotton and its museum.jpg recently presented in Cairo by Filmar chief Marco Marzoli, the museum curator Muhammad al-Husseini al-Aqqad and Italy’s ambassador to Cairo Maurizio Massari. The Italian market leader Filmar, which processes Egyptian cotton in its factory in the industrial zone of Burg al-Arab southwest of Alexandria, has published the book showcasing the history of cotton in three languages: Italian, English and Arabic. “We wished to produce a book that would be interesting but also aesthetically beautiful, attractive to both specialists and non-specialists,” Marzoli said. Massari noted that that the book symbolises the cooperation between Egypt and Italy in the cotton sector which, as he underscored, is growing. The Italian writer and poet Dacia Maraini who was then in Cairo for a number of meetings and conferences was a guest at the book presentation. She dedicated a poem to cotton with the verse ####cotton blossoms are unaware, but they smile####, in honour of the sacrifices of slaves and the many women who played a part in harvesting the precious white balls.
Fête de la Musique
Fete de la musique.jpgThe French Institute recently celebrated World Music Day by featuring three Egyptian bands onstage at the Salah Eddin Citadel in Cairo where hundreds of young Egyptian music lovers gathered in front of the stage set in the courtyard surrounded by the 12th century walls.
Fête de la Musique, a large music festival, was launched in 1982 by the French culture ministry and has since been held yearly, usually on 21 June, across over one hundred countries on five continents where people celebrate what has now become known as the World Music Day.
Among the bands playing was Darwasha, which was established a year ago by composer Mohammed Darwish and fuses Arabic rock and metal with electronic music. Several of the songs were sung to the lyrics of well-known Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Nigm who is famous for his songs opposing Egyptian ruling regimes, especially during the 1960s and 70s. There was also Salalem, which was launched in 2004, and celebrates the light side of the daily lives of Egyptian youth, their social and economic obstacles.
WATANI International
7 July 2013
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